Live skunk found in shipping container

This live striped skunk was found Aug. 30 in a container of ceramic tiles at a Kahului trucking company. Department of Agriculture inspectors captured the apparent stowaway and took it to Oahu on Tuesday. • Hawaii Department of Agriculture photo

The Maui News – Workers at a trucking company in Kahului found a live skunk in a container last week, the Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday morning.

The workers were unloading a container of ceramic tiles late Aug. 30 when they smelled an odor and “thought they saw a critter in the container,” the department reported. “They quickly closed the container and called agricultural inspectors.”

Officials responded from the Maui Plant Quarantine Branch of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

“Maui inspectors were dispatched to the company and set two traps in the container overnight, and the apparent stowaway was found in one of the traps on Friday morning,” officials said. “The skunk has been identified as a striped skunk weighing about 5 pounds.”

The animal was sent to Oahu Tuesday morning. It was being tested for rabies. Test results were expected in a few days.

“We appreciate the quick reaction of the trucking crew in containing the animal and contacting HDOA inspectors,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, acting chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. “Had the animal escaped from the container, it would have been a much larger problem and we are grateful for their awareness and cooperation.”

In the case of stowaway animals, containment of the animal is critical and humans and other animals should not come into physical contact with it, officials said.

It’s not the first time a live skunk was found on Hawaii docks. In February 2018, stevedores captured a live skunk at Pier 1 at Honolulu Harbor. That was the first recorded capture of a live skunk in Hawaii, officials said.

Skunks are prohibited in Hawaii and are only allowed by permit for research and exhibition in a municipal zoo. Skunks inhabit the Mainland United States, Canada, South America, Mexico and other parts of the world. They are one of four wild animals considered to be the primary carriers of the rabies virus, a fatal viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Hawaii is the only state in the nation and one of the few places in the world that is rabies free.

Sightings or captures of illegal and invasive species should be reported to the state’s toll-free pest hotline at 643-PEST (7378).